The Forever Court (Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2)

Title: The Forever Court

Author: Dave Rudden

Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark #2

Uriel Croit has spent his entire life waiting for the Redemptress to awaken. The Croits train and prepare for the War that will come when they will take over the world. But when Uriel’s fondest dreams are realized, he finds the world isn’t as simple as he thought . . .

Denizen Hardwick is in training to become a Knight who kills the Tenebrous who invade the world from some outer dimension. Too bad he’s absolutely fascinated by Mercy, the Tenebrous he saved, the Tenebrous who granted him knowledge of ALL of the Cants the Knights use to control their magic. And when a message comes from the Tenebrous asking for Denizen by name, no one knows what to think. Could peace even be possible, or is this some elaborate scheme? And even if it is a genuine offer from the Tenebrae, will the Knights risk it, or try to sabotage it themselves?

I adored the first book, and was happy to find this one was just as good. Uriel’s sections are important, but Uriel isn’t as funny as Denizen, so I tended to prefer Denizen’s commentary about basically everything.

Like the first, this has a good dose of horror, humor, and fantasy. Denizen is exploring his first crush—and amusingly enough it’s Mercy. Which gets him into no end of trouble with everyone.

We will see each other again, Denizen Hardwick.

Denizen had assumed that was the kind of thing magical glowing girls said all the time, to promote an air of mystery. He hadn’t realized it was something she was going to go and organize.

And:

He’d read enough fantasy books to know that diplomacy didn’t mean honesty and conversation. It meant fancy dinners, watching betrayal flash behind people’s eyes, and not trusting Grand Viziers.

Naturally, the situation is way more complicated than anyone realizes. I liked the rough relationship between Denizen and his newly-discovered mother. He thought of himself as an orphan for so long he’s not sure what to do with family. And honestly, he almost feels like an orphan still, because the way Vivian runs the Sanctuary is more like a barracks and less like a home. He’s much more a novice Knight to her than her son.

It was an occupational hazard of being a bookworm. You stopped thinking in terms of reality and started thinking of nick-of-time rescues and the power of a dramatic speech. It couldn’t be over because it shouldn’t be over.

And I liked how Denizen is an absolute wildcard in this whole mess. His knowledge of the Cants makes him extremely dangerous—but he doesn’t have the training to use them properly, or the physical ability to back them up. Cants are supposed to be a last resort, because of the Cost. He’s the only one who believes Mercy is telling the truth and that peace between the Knights and the Tenebrous is even possible. But is he right about her heart, or have those older and wiser Knights who see only monsters spotted something he missed? Just because a happy ending would be a nice story doesn’t mean it’s actually the truth.

Overall, I was thrilled to finally get a copy of this in my hands, and I can’t wait for the next installment. I really need to start a quote file to save off my favorites—the above are only about half the places that had me laughing so hard I had to put the book down. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

More quotes because I can and I want to remember these:

Mercy gave a passable approximation of Frown No. 12—Here Is Some Sympathy I Am Not Sure You Deserve.

And:

Jack shrugged. “There’s no point to revenge. You either don’t get it, in which case the want grows until it collapses your world around you, or you do get it. And then you have it. Great. Show me something you can build from revenge that you can’t build from acceptance.”

And:

I want a form, Denizen thought. I want everyone to have a form, and you have to fill out your intentions and list why you’re doing what you’re doing. And you’re not allowed to lie.

And:

He’d feel like a right idiot if all this was happening and he died from smoke inhalation.

And:

Denizen didn’t think he was claustrophobic, though he had avoided small spaces up until now precisely because he didn’t want to find out. He had the sneaking suspicion he was home to a whole plethora of phobias he hadn’t discovered, simply because he hadn’t been exposed to them yet.

And:

She gave Denizen a half-smile. “Hardwicks aren’t great with emotion. We’re our own worst enemies, really.” She paused. “Which, considering our vocation, is actually rather impressive.”

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The Desecrator (Vlad Taltos)

Title: The Desecrator

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos (same universe, set sometime before Dzur)

When Telnan was sent by Sethra Lavode to seek out a disturbance, he wasn’t sure what he’d find. This short story features Telnan (from Dzur), Daymar, and an ancient artifact that just wants to kill everyone.

This was short and humorous, although I kept thinking it was Vlad narrating even though all the secondary details made it obviously someone else. Daymar’s attempt to defend his activities was particularly giggle-worthy.

Recommended for fans of the Vlad Taltos series. It will probably still be funny otherwise, but some of the references will be lost.

Read for free here: https://www.tor.com/2011/03/02/the-desecrator/

The Adventurer’s Guild (The Adventurer’s Guild #1)

Title: The Adventurer’s Guild

Author: Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Series: The Adventurer’s Guild #1

The world basically ended before Zed was born, when the barriers between dimensions opened and let through all sorts of Dangers. Zed and Brock live in one of the last cities standing. They’re old enough to finally be apprenticed to a Guild, and that apprenticeship will determine the rest of their lives. Brock has no doubts he’ll be accepted into the Merchant Guild, like his family. But Zed isn’t sure anyone wants him. He’s a half-elf—just like the person who ended the world. But an unexpected choice opens up a destiny greater and more dangerous than anything they could’ve imagined.

I wasn’t necessarily fond of the world from the description (I hate dystopias) but found myself quickly drawn in as I started reading. This isn’t so much about evil oppressive government and the strict policies the town has adopted to survive in a newly monster-infested world. It’s more about Zed and Brock navigating their place in the Adventurer’s Guild, which is the only group of people allowed (and expected) to leave the safety of the walls and venture into the world beyond.

Zed and Brock are opposites in some ways. Zed is the son of a serving woman (who herself isn’t that highly ranked simply due to having a half-breed son), whereas Brock is fortunate to be in a prosperous merchant family. Zed is shy, clumsy, and hesitant, where Brock is more outgoing and confident. But in the Adventurer’s Guild, Zed is fascinated by the Guild and his own powers, where Brock wants to get both of them out.

I do wish Zed hadn’t made that bargain by the end. I don’t think that’s going to end up working out for him, and it seems a stupid thing to risk. He had a decent amount of his own power, and it puzzles me he didn’t take the idea of flames and just do it himself.

Overall, though, this was a lot of fun. The twist near the end is a strong lead to future adventures, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book. I rate this book Recommended.

Frogkisser!

Title: Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix

Princess Anya wishes she could simply be left alone to read. She’d like to study sorcery, but her stepstepfather, who is probably an evil sorcerer, keeps interfering. Between rescuing her sister’s suitors after they’ve been transformed into frogs to keeping the castle running, Anya has to do most of the odd jobs herself. Then she finds herself quite unwillingly going on a Quest, because if she can’t get away from her stepstepfather, he’ll do away with her.

This is a light and fast story that parodies quite a lot about ordinary fantasy stories. The basic structure, of course, is highly traditional: evil stepparent (or in this case, stepstep parent) is planning to take over the kingdom, which means getting rid of the legitimate heirs. But the story likes to play around, with associations for robbers, and the perpetual threat of a sorcerer turning you into something (almost always a frog).

I did love the dogs. Ardent is such a puppy: eager, energetic, clumsy, hungry. And good at making himself cute when he wants something or is in trouble. He wants to be heroic, but at the same time he keeps getting distracted on the Quest by conveniently placed bushes and such. He was easily my favorite part.

I suppose the rest of the parody fell flatter than it should because even though the tropes it’s parodying do exist, the parodies themselves have become tropes too. The Robin Hood-esque robbers. The female wizard who gets offended that Anya expected a male with a big white beard (honestly, these days I see so many female magic-users in fiction it’s hard to argue there’s a bias at all). Even taking a familiar story and explaining it’s something completely different. None of it is bad, but I didn’t find it more than mildly amusing at best.

Overall, this is still a pretty good read, though not one I see myself revisiting. I rate this book Recommended.

Vallista (Vlad Taltos #15)

Title: Vallista

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #15

Vlad Taltos is just trying to stay out of trouble. He’s wanted by the Jhereg, hiding in the Easterner’s quarter, and in no mood for any adventures. But then Devera shows up asking for help. She’s trapped in a strange house, and wants Vlad to get her out. She neglected to mention that simply entering the house would trap him too. Now Vlad has to figure out the secrets behind a house whose interior twists through space and time and whose occupants are less than friendly. At least, if he ever wants to leave . . .

This was a solid book, although since Vlad spends most of it figuring things out on his own and not really interacting with others, there’s less opportunity for the humor that’s so defined this series. It is funny to watch Vlad struggle through puzzling out the way the magic was set up. He’s always hated Daymar, but in this case he could use the Hawklord’s help. Vlad is more used to solving problems by putting knives in them, or threatening to put knives in them, or running away from other people’s knives.

It is a fascinating look at what necromancy actually encompasses in this world, though. Despite being friends with THE Necromancer, Vlad only has the faintest ideas of what it actually does. I really liked following him as he struggles to comprehend a magical discipline he’s never used.

I was a bit sad that since this is set chronologically before the events of Hawk, we’ll be waiting a bit longer to see the outcome of everything Vlad did there. This story stands alone pretty well, as Vlad has never been very chatty about his past, and therefore the backstory is both minimal and largely irrelevant.

This isn’t going to be one of my favorite books in the series, but it is something I would read again. I rate this book Recommended.

Preludes to War (Eve of Redemption #6)

Title: Preludes to War

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #6

Karian Vanador owes a favor to the demon king Morduri. She’s not very happy about that, and even less so when he calls it in immediately after she’s become the new Avatar of Vengeance. But Morduri was right to say he’d only ask for something she’d be willing to give—and her assignment now offers her a chance to strike a tangible blow against Sekassus, the demon king she hates the most.

With Grakin gone, Kari’s working her way through her feelings again. She doesn’t want to stay stuck in grief, but she doesn’t know if she’s ready for a new relationship. I’m curious to see more of Kris, as the little bit we do see show he’s a very different person than Grakin was, and one perhaps better matched to Kari’s hunter lifestyle. Especially if she does end up with a war against the demon kings (which, given the ending, looks entirely possible to be far sooner than she thought).

Kari’s actual fulfillment of her bargain is one of my favorite parts of the whole series. Not just the act itself, but everything that built up to it—the disguise she uses to infiltrate Sekassus’s territory, the way she interacts with the locals, and all of the little bonuses she scored for Morduri. She’s planning for the long-term. And it’s her compassion, as well as her martial skills, that draw so many others to follow her lead.

Also Kari is learning bad words in other languages, and putting them to excellent use. *evil grin*

I like how she’s forging relationships between the worlds. Person by person, both the powerful and the ordinary, she’s fighting for people who often don’t know how to fight for themselves. She’s stirring them to want freedom. This is most personal with Seanada, who has grown to be a friend, and who Kari wants to find happiness in places where Seanada is too cautious to try.

Favorite quotes:

Seanada smiled at her mother, and the two chuckled.  “Not every problem can be solved with a knife, but I try that first anyway,” the assassin said.

All in all, given what this book did and where it left off, I absolutely can’t wait for the next installment. These are funny, exciting, and full of so much heart. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Huntress’ Game (Eve of Redemption #5)

Title: The Huntress’ Game

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #5

Kari is caught between duties and family. Grakin’s condition is worsening, but it isn’t easy taking time away from her job. For one, the demon king Koursturaux isn’t willing to put off her visit any longer. In addition, Zalkar has set the final trial in her testing to become the next Avatar of Vengeance: to deal with her former friend-turned-vampire Annabelle Sol’Ridachi. Who was probably turned by a vampire black dragon. Who lives in an old fort that’s all but impossible to assail. But Kari’s wanted for years to give her former partner the peace of actual death, and now she has reason to try.

I really hope Kari one day gets to stick a sword (or other appropriate pointy object) into the actual demon kings. She’s a long, long way from that now, though, and she knows it. This visit to a demon king in the seat of her power isn’t quite what Kari expects, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe. It’s a delicate balancing act, with a lot of diplomacy (which Kari doesn’t have much of) and nerves of steel (which she has plenty of) to help her through.

The characters and action are both strong, as expected from the series this far, and this book continues in that excellent tradition. The plot continues to throw out one surprise after another—I did NOT expect how this ended at all. In fact there are several neat surprises along the way, too. Kari’s continuing to draw friends and allies from the unlikeliest of places.

And there’s so much heart. Kari introducing her daughter Uldriana to the original Uldriana’s parents was one of my favorite scenes. The mallasti did so much with so little, and her brief encounter will resonate for a long time to come.

Overall, if you’ve been following along with the series so far there’s not much more I can say to recommend it, as every single book has been excellent. If you’re new to the series, start at Salvation’s Dawn to avoid spoiling yourself on some of the bigger surprises. I rate this book Highly Recommended.